John Spillett


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A native of Syracuse, New York, John Spillett is an accomplished and versatile professional saxophonist, experienced band leader, and a recognized music educator.


John is active in the Central New York music scene with a long history of professional performing experience playing all styles of music including straight-ahead jazz, contemporary jazz, Latin, pop, rock, R&B, blues, funk, ethnic, sacred, and classical. A veteran saxophonist and vocalist, he has performed at over 2000 professional engagements, including jazz festivals, restaurant club dates, private parties, corporate functions, wedding ceremonies and receptions, church and funeral services, Broadway shows, and the New York State Fair.

John has developed an extensive performing resume playing saxophone with many of Central New York’s finest professional groups, including The Central New York Jazz Orchestra, Salt City Jazz Collective, Mario DeSantis Orchestra, Stan Colella Orchestra, Jack Kreischer Orchestra, Syracuse New Music Society, Syracuse Concert Band, Dunes and the Del-Tunes, Four on the Floor, Alibi, The Don Martin Duo, Todd Hobin, Ronnie Leigh and others. John has also performed with nationally and regionally known jazz and contemporary music artists including The Temptations, Bobby Rydell, Rick Montalbano, Phil Flanigan, Mike Melito, and Joe Riposo.


As a band leader, John formed his own successful jazz band, wedding/party band, and Christian duo. John’s jazz band has performed at over 300 professional engagements throughout Central New York including restaurant engagements, wedding reception cocktail hours, wine tastings, fund raisers, jazz festivals, jazz concerts, private events, and corporate functions. The jazz band has performed at many Syracuse area venues including Anyela’s Vineyards, The Sherwood Inn, Mirabeau Inn and Spa, Moro’s Table, Creekside Books and Coffee, Cora D’s, Syracuse Suds Factory, The Mandana Inn, The Maplewood Inn, Dolce Vita, The Blue Water Grill, Saltine Warrior Sports Pub, and many others. His wedding/party band has performed at over 1000 professional engagements including wedding receptions, private parties and corporate functions. John’s band client list includes some of the most prestigious companies and organizations in Central New York.


John is the former Director of Bands and Music Department Chair for the Solvay School District in Solvay, New York. Under his direction the Solvay High School Concert Band and Jazz Combo received numerous local, state, and regional awards for musical excellence consistently achieving Gold and Gold with Distinction ratings at performance evaluation festivals. At Solvay, John developed an innovative, credit bearing Jazz Combo course which incorporated ear training, jazz theory, jazz history, improvisation, basic compositional techniques, and the concept of hemisphericity in order to nurture student creativity. John also served as an adjunct professor at Le Moyne College for 9 years where he directed the college’s Jazz Ensemble, taught jazz improvisation, and saxophone lessons.

As a studio saxophone instructor, John has extensive private teaching experience in classical, jazz, and contemporary saxophone styles. He has developed a reputable saxophone studio with a long history of successful private teaching. John’s private saxophone students have consistently achieved gold ratings for outstanding solo performance and have been accepted as saxophone music majors at many prestigious colleges and universities. Many of his former private students attended college on full and partial music scholarships, and most are successfully pursuing part-time and full-time careers in music.

John has been honored with distinguished recognition for his teaching and for outstanding student achievement in music. He has received awards and commendations from the Solvay School District Board of Education, Oneida Jazz Festival, Cultural Resources Council, American Bandmasters Association, Onondaga County Legislature, New York State Assembly, New York State Senate, and Honorable Mention for Teen Ink magazine’s Educator of the Year. He was named the 2009 New York State Music Educator Honoree for School Band and Orchestra magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” report. Most recently he was selected as a recipient of the 2010 Syracuse Symphony Musicians’ Outstanding Music Educator Award in the instrumental band category for making a significant impact on music education in Central New York.


John received a M.M. degree in saxophone performance from Northwestern University, where he studied saxophone with Frederick Hemke and conducting with John Paynter. He received a B.M. degree in music education with performance honors from Syracuse University where he studied saxophone with Norbert Buskey and Robert Fought. He has pursued additional postgraduate work at the Eastman School of Music, where he studied jazz saxophone with Ramon Ricker and jazz improvisation with Fred Sturm. John’s continuing educational activities have included work with Jamey Aebersold, David Baker, Deborah Coble, Jerry Coker, Rick Montalbano, Edward Lisk, Joe Riposo, and Larry Teal. John holds membership in several professional music organizations. He continues to find inspiration in the music of legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.